From time to time I receive books for review, particularly where they address the issue of child to parent violence and abuse. Where appropriate, I am pleased to comment on the content and provide comments for review. The new publication from Louise Allen, How to Adopt a Child, Your step-by-step guide to adoption and parenting, was one such book, and I was interested to find out about her comprehensive knowledge and experience of the adoption system. I have attached the review as submitted. You can purchase Louise’s book on Amazon (or through your local independent bookshop!) and you can read more about Louise’s work on her website.
Louise Allen makes it clear from the very first pages that this is a book with adoptive parents and their children at its heart. She writes from personal experience, laying out every aspect of the adoption process, in order that those thinking about adoption might have no surprises later. Not to put people off – unless that is the right response – but to leave you fully informed, fully armed, fully prepared to offer the support, the healing and love that will be needed. There is much about trauma, which will feature heavily for children who find themselves in need of a home. Allen pulls no punches in describing what this looks and feels like for the child, and the consequential feelings for the adults, but she goes on to offer very practical advice that comes from many years of training, parenting, and above all listening to children. As she says, “Living with a violent child that you have committed to love while everyone around you is offering their opinion is hard, very hard”. Allen is here to make it just a little less hard.
I was interested to read this paper from the Chief Social Workers for England, when it was published at the end of February. A spectrum of opportunity: an exploratory study of social work with autistic young people and their families looks at three things:
how responsive social workers were to the needs of young adults and their families
what barriers there were to enable more effective interventions
how things could be done differently to improve outcomes
I won’t go in to detail about the main body of the report – it is straightforward and easy to read, so I recommend it to you. It talks about what works well and what needs to be done better. Unsurprisingly, it points to the importance of the development of specialist knowledge in social workers, joined up work across agencies, and earlier intervention and proactive support to provide help before things go wrong; with the centrality of long-term trusting relationships between families and workers. Sadly, there is mention once again of parents’ fears of being labelled as ‘bad’ or ‘failing parents’.
With a hope that we may be starting to see the beginnings of the end of lockdown, we are reminded that we won’t be seeing a wholesale return to ‘life as we once knew it’; and there are plenty of discussions about what the new normal will look like. So it’s not too late to bring you another in the series of learning from lockdown and taking services online! Hopefully there might be something here that is interesting to you, or can help inform the wider changes …
The team working at Family Based Solutions (FBS) have been delivering support to families experiencing child to parent violence and abuse since they were established (as PAARS) in 2013. As a specialist organisation, they have developed real expertise in this field, but part of their success is that they are able to offer a holistic, wrap around response to families, addressing any and all issues they face and which may be contributing to the break in relationships. Taking advantage of training opportunities, they have now adopted a Solution Focussed approach, which they have found enables families themselves to recognise the way through and to re-establish parental authority and respect.
An odd question for me to be asking perhaps after all this time! I was very struck by the recent paper from Amanda Holt and Sam Lewis talking about the ways that child to parent violence is variously constructed by government and by practitioners, and the implications of this for practice. The starting positions we take, the assumptions we make may well be unconscious, but if it has taught us nothing else, CPV has surely taught us that we need to examine every assumption, challenge every preconception and get ready to believe the apparently impossible! That said, the debate as to where CPV “sits” (not quite domestic abuse, not quite juvenile delinquency, not quite safeguarding) does continue to grind on – albeit very slowly. Continue reading →
Having spent the last few months thinking about the issues of delivering work to families online, interviewing practitioners (here and here) and a parent, and reading commentary and reports, I have formed in my head a series of questions, the responses to which seem fundamental to safe and respectful delivery of this particular type of work:
Power. Who is defining the problem, the need, and the appropriate response? What demands are made in terms of compliance and availability? How are solutions negotiated and achieved?
Technology. Access to devices, to broadband, to knowledge and skills.
Space / Time. The possibility of being able to think clearly and speak safely. The possibility of making use of suggestions made within current family life. The possibility of escape.
Monitoring of risk and safety. Awareness of coercive and controlling behaviours and their impact on the ability to monitor this remotely.
Knowledge and skill sets. Including confidence in the issues and in technology, curiosity, creativity.
All of the work I have looked at so far has been designed originally for face-to-face delivery, and then adapted for online work. In contrast, The Kent Adolescent to Parent Violence programme for families with children aged 10-18 experiencing Child and Adolescent to Parent Violence (C/APV), currently being developed and piloted in Kent, has been written almost entirely with online delivery in mind. It was interesting then to see how these questions had been considered and answered. Elaine Simcock, Practice Development Officer within the CYP Directorate talked me through it. Continue reading →
Capa First Response, a support and advice organisation helping families and professionals impacted by child to parent abuse, has recently been in talks with a production company to produce a documentary about child to parent violence and abuse.
This project wants to hear from any families willing to share their stories around this issue, in particular any families where the behaviour is now historic and your relationship with your child has improved. We are also looking to speak with families where the behaviour is ongoing and you would be willing to talk about this.The project is not trying to recreate a fly on the wall documentary but look at why this behaviour happens, how it presents itself, the difficulties parents face when it comes to friends, families and authorities. If you are interested please email Capa UK for more information.
You will be aware that there have been a number of television programmes in recent years which have centred on children’s violence towards their parents. Some of these have been more sympathetic than others, largely depending on the aims of the producers and the “story” they have chosen to tell. Understandably there is great reluctance to expose painful and very personal situations in this way, and to potentially create a document that is there to view for the rest of your and your child’s life. Sometimes it is possible to remain anonymous, for the producers to use actors or for faces to be pixellated out. Sometimes producers are keen to show “actual families” to make the story “more convincing” – but it also depends on what the story is. I have personally met with researchers who are very aware of the issues and want to make something that is not sensationalist. Sometimes these initial ideas come to nothing, Sometimes they move forward slowly!
I will always advise parents to think very carefully before committing to anything like this. To ensure they have considered all the implications and that they have proper support in place. Nevertheless, it must be an individual decision and so I continue to publicise requests when they land in my in-tray, particularly if they come from people I know and trust.
I would like to thank all those who have worked tirelessly to help families experiencing child to parent violence and abuse through an extraordinarily difficult time. Whether professionally, or as a good friend or family member, that time and support may have been the thing that kept them going. It has been amazing to see the way that work has been adapted to enable things to keep going. New research has both added to the knowledge we have and confirmed some of the things we suspected. Additional media attention means that more of the public are aware that this is an issue, hopefully changing attitudes along the way. And conversations have started at a more strategic level, which we hope will bear fruit in the next months.
For those parents that read this, we are in awe of the work you do day to day!
So, wishing everyone that reads this the strength and stamina to make and enjoy a peaceful time over the next week. We are very much a team in this work. We all hold a piece of the puzzle. We all need each other. We wait for hope and better news in 2021.
I’ve been thinking more about my last blog (“What works?”), and whether other things are needed too for successful, supportive and healing work with families where there is child to parent violence and abuse. This was prompted in part by a recent Partnership Projectsblog post from Peter Jakob and Jill Lubienski, looking at the importance of motivation to change.
Before everyone rushes in, can I say that I acknowledge that many families are highly motivated and have been banging on doors asking for help for significant lengths of time, and that the blockage is most definitely not at their end! Nevertheless, it is important also to recognise that CPVA impacts many different families and for many different reasons, and in some cases, families may be expected to engage in a piece of work not of their choosing. By which I don’t mean classic parenting classes. A couple of examples: one family may have been referred to a programme as part of a wider piece of work, or through the courts; or they may come to a service voluntarily but very clearly identify the problem as rooted in the child or young person, expecting them to make all the changes. If we identify the issue of child to parent violence and abuse as a relationship issue, then we seek to bring about change also within the relationship, and not simply for one individual.
As always, once I start thinking about something it pops up everywhere in conversations and reading, so I was interested to hear that this was something that other practitioners were tackling at the moment. Continue reading →
Well this could be true about so many things at the moment! The world we knew is far from the one we are living in at present, and yet the violence and abuse that too many families experience on a daily basis continues. The pandemic has driven a flurry of interest in child to parent violence and abuse from the media; but also people have been looking for different ways to conduct training, and so my diary has been rather taken up by Zoom events! For the last few months I have found myself reflecting in a more concerted way than usual on the progress of work around child to parent violence and abuse since 2010. Continue reading →
Following on from my earlier post about the logistics of providing support for families online rather than in person, I was really pleased to be able to speak with Jane, a parent of 2 adopted children aged 4 and 6, who wanted to share her own experience of accessing help over the last few months. While she had been experiencing some difficulties prior to the spread of COVID, and she had been receiving help in relation to her older child, for her family the effects of lockdown were devastating as the behaviour of her younger child became dangerous and unmanageable as he struggled to cope with the sudden change in routine. Furthermore, the family immediately lost all access to support – formal and informal – and respite, which had previously kept them going.Continue reading →